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In this article, we seek to discuss the tension between relational personhood, characterised by 'dividuals, and the individualisation of persons whose driving force was the creation of new embodied skills learnt to perform the wide range of new tasks which defined the farming way of life. This is, in effect, an exploration of the consequences of a vivid new world itself created by the interactions of a wider variety of individuals with different skills than had ever been seen before, including those required for domesticating animals, potting, building rectangular houses, growing cereals and pulses and polishing stone tools and ornaments.
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Documenta Praehistorica XXXVIII (2011)
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational
personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
Department of Archaeology, Durham University, UK<
ABSTRACT – In this article, we seek to discuss the tension between relational personhood, charac-
terised by ‘dividuals’, and the individualisation of persons whose driving force was the creation of
new embodied skills learnt to perform the wide range of new tasks which defined the farming way
of life. This is, in effect, an exploration of the consequences of a vivid new world itself created by the
interactions of a wider variety of individuals with different skills than had ever been seen before, in-
cluding those required for domesticating animals, potting, building rectangular houses, growing ce-
reals and pulses and polishing stone tools and ornaments.
IZVLEEK – V lanku bomo razpravljali o tenzijah med sestavljivim sebstvom, doloenim z ‘dividu-
alnostjo’, in individualnostjo oseb, ki jo doloajo nova znanja in spretnosti, povezane s poljedelskim
nainom ivljenja. Gre za raziskovanje posledic dinamike novega sveta, ki so ga ustvarile interak-
cije posameznikov z razlinimi novimi spretnostmi, vkljuno z znanji o udomaitvi ivali, izdelavi
lonenine, gradnji pravokotnih hi, gojenju it in stronic ter poliranju kamnitih orodij in okraskov.
KEY WORDS – individualisation; personhood; Early Neolithic; Balkans
Introduction: the absence of individuals
In her contribution to the ground-breaking ‘Engen-
dering Archaeology’ (Gero and Conkey 1991), Ruth
Tringham (1991.94) famously diagnosed the way
she conceptualised people in her earlier accounts of
Balkan prehistory as ...a lot of faceless blobs...”.
Tringham’s confession had generic application to a
wide range of interpretations of the past, including
much culture history, most processualist scholarship
and not a little post-processualist writing.
The writing of archaeological narratives paying due
attention to women has stimulated closer attention
than hitherto about persons of different genders
and ages (Gero and Conkey 1991; Gilchrist 1994;
Díaz-Andreu, Sørensen 1998; Adovasio et al. 2007).
One strand of gender theorisation concerned the
gendering of task differentiation (Spector 1991; Sø-
rensen 2000), although this interest has faded owing
to its weak foundations in cross-cultural ethnography.
In particular, over the last decade, there has been an
explosion of concerns about the principles and prac-
tice of being a person – in short, personhood. This
debate has generated famous disagreements con-
cerning the forms of personhood proper to studies
of the past and the relationship between notions of
personhood and modernity (Thomas 2008; Knapp,
van Dommelen 2008). Nonetheless, the productivi-
ty of this debate can be assessed by the large num-
ber of new approaches to what is significant about
personhood in the past (Brück 2001; Whittle 2003;
Fowler 2004; Kirk 2006).
A close reading of all of the key papers concerning
personhood in prehistory over the last decade has
led us to a very similar conclusion to that of Trin-
gham, but in respect of debates over personhood –
namely, that very few individuals figure in the
debate. Just as post-processualists have blind spots
DOI> 10.4312\dp.38.3
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John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
in their considerations of identity – in particular sta-
tus and religion (Díaz-Andreu, Lucy 2005.8) – so the
blind spots in discussions of personhood hitherto
have been social roles and embodied skills. We offer
a few examples of the problem.
In Dobres and Robb’s (2000) collection of essays on
agency, the only author who characterises and fo-
cuses attention on individual persons is Shackel
(2000) in his discussion of power relationships in
early capitalist communities in 19th century – wor-
kers (craftsmen, pieceworkers and wage labourers)
and managers. In Whittle’s excellent work on Neo-
lithic people, we are encouraged to explore a fuller
sense of the range of values and goals that moti-
vated different people in different ways, of what
bound people together and what individuals were
like (our italics), of the detail of daily lives...
(Whittle 2003.xv). But the range of individuals men-
tioned is narrow: ancestors, farmers, foragers, male
warriors and women with bad teeth. In Chris Fow-
ler’s innovative account of personhood, three exam-
ples are given of types of individual shamans,
mothers and priests and the only other type of per-
son mentioned was the ‘high-ranking warrior’ (Fow-
ler 2004.4, 95). In a collection of essays on plural
and changing identities, the authors (Casella and
Fowler 2004.2) list their studies of how various
axes of race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, class, per-
sonhood, health and/or religion contribute to ...
material expressions of social affiliations” – with
an obvious gap being roles and personae. Types of
individual are discussed in only one chapter – Jamie-
son’s review of caste in AD 17th century Cuenca (Ja-
mieson 2004). In parallel to caste, Jamieson discus-
ses the role of the ‘chola’ – the group of urban, work-
ing-class women, including market vendors, domes-
tic servants and washerwomen, etc. Otherwise, a
random selection of types of individuals mentio-
ned but never discussed includes slaves, prostitu-
tes, berdaches, chiefs, a mining millionaire, workers,
swimmers and miners and quarrymen (implied from
mines and quarries). In the Durham book on iden-
tity (Díaz-Andreu et al. 2005), there is no chapter
devoted to roles and skills, although Díaz-Andreu
(2005.27–35) discusses the gendering of tasks and
skills in subsistence and production without ever
considering the significance of the tasks themselves.
Andrew Jones (2005) summarises, but never exploits,
the approach termed ‘dynamic nominalism’ that we
shall utilise later in this chapter, mentioning inco-
ming farmers, indigenous hunter-gatherers, kin
groups, people with enchained social relations and
ancestral populations (2005.201) but never discus-
sing types of person in greater detail. A final exam-
ple comes from Jones’ (2008) edited volume on ‘Pre-
historic Europe’, in which Bori’s (2008.134) chap-
ter on households defines the household as ‘a col-
lective moral person’, but fails to discuss what kinds
of social practices went on in those houses and
which individuals carried them out. Equally, there
is but one reference to a ‘potter’ – a quotation of K.
D. Vitelli’s (1995) work in Gheorghiu’s (2008)
chapter on the emergence of pottery, while Ottaway
and Roberts (2008) give somewhat more detail
about individuals engaged with metalworking: min-
ing usually by men; ore processing by women and
children; and specialist smelting knowledge retained
by specialist males. Hanks’ (2008) chapter on later
prehistoric burials is completely dominated by de-
bates over high-status warriors, while, returning to
the Neolithic, Hofmann and Whittle (2008.287) hint
at the kind of missing person we wish to discuss in
a consideration of age, gender and skill differentia-
tion: “... and indeed any other category of person
that there (may) have been.
In these and many other recent accounts of relatio-
nal personhood, the focus is on a narrow range of
types of individual, as well as on very general types
of individual, without careful consideration of what
differentiated one Neolithic woman from another
or the difference that living in small homesteads,
larger metropolitan tell villages or Tripolye mega-
sites of thousands of persons made to particular per-
sons (Chapman 2010). The historical and theoreti-
cal reasons for this absence of a vital form of evi-
dence – types of individual – cannot be discussed at
length here (but see Chapman and Gaydarska in
prep.). But overlooking the burgeoning skills of peo-
ple in the past not only removes a potent source of
change from the debate, but also over-simplifies the
debate over the creation of relational personhood in
prehistory. Here, we identify three key aspects of
A whole-life process, changing from birth to death;
The embodiment of identities based upon rela-
tions with places, things and other persons – the
creation of ‘dividuals’;
The grounding of individual identities in linguis-
tic, social, creative and task-based skills and ca-
pacities – the creation of individualised persons.
The twin aims of this chapter are, first, to re-instate
the kinds of skills that created individuals at the
heart of the personhood debate; and, secondly, to
explore the tensions between ‘dividual’ and ‘indivi-
dualised’ personhood in a way that goes beyond the
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
approach of LiPuma (1998). Fortunately, approaches
that can help this task have been at hand for over a
decade. In this article, we seek to combine dynamic
nominalist theory with the operational chain method.
The dynamic nominalist approach
The approach termed ‘dynamic nominalism’ is,
broadly speaking, a form of agency theory develo-
ped in the writings of Michel Foucault (1973; 1979).
The aim is to reconcile structure and agency within
a single mechanism through the attribution of a
more active role to identity. Ian Hacking (1995.247–
8) defines the core notion: categories of people come
into existence at the same time as kinds of people
come into being to fit these categories in a two-way
interaction. An example which Hacking draws from
Foucault (1973) is the way that, owing to the deve-
lopment of new institutional forms of discipline and
uniforms, soldiers in the Early Modern period ‘be-
came’ different kinds of people from Medieval sol-
diers’. If social change ‘generates new kinds of peo-
ple’ (Hacking 1995.248), this underlines the essen-
tial role of history in nominalism. This approach has
recently been used in a study of Sardinian nuraghi
by Emma Blake, who maintains that the generative
power of self-categorisation means that it is not only
a type of agency, but also a structuring device; it is
a process which individuals engage in, as well as a
framework for other practices (Blake 1999). This
means that agency and structure come together in
the formation of identities, which may be described
as the practice of self-description through categorisa-
tion. Identity, then, cannot simply be reduced to a
function of habitus, but is rather a way of coming
to terms with the world and the Other. As Mary
Beaudry et al. (1991.154) note, cultural identity is a
public act of mediation between the self and others,
through any sign or object that allows a person to
‘make his self manifest’. This concept approaches
that of Marx’ notion of objectification, which has
been refined and expanded by, inter alia, Danny
Miller (1987). Miller demonstrates that the object
that forms an extension of the person re-introduces
the values and status of the object back into the per-
son, through a process termed ‘sublation’. These twin
concepts clarify the close relationships between per-
sons and objects and their relative status. When we
come to discuss the objects characteristically asso-
ciated with new types of person, it becomes clear
that an object of high status can, and often does,
transfer its own status to that of its maker or user,
while low-status foods cannot but transfer their low
status to their consumers.
At the level of the group, identities become a selec-
tion of defining characteristics, insofar as to define
a group is to map its limits and define it in terms
of what it is not, and statuses, insofar as there is a
constant re-negotiation of the status of both per-
sons and objects in any cultural milieu. A key cultu-
ral resource to which selection is applied is the ma-
terial world and the places where this is displayed;
these storehouses of cultural resources (Barrett
1988) provide material for the re-writing of group
origins, a process of locating, and valuing, the Other
in the past (Blake 1999). The self-definition of a
group is a selection from one’s own history and ori-
gins – a narrative of inclusions and exclusions.
This approach differs in two main ways from the
agency theories of Anthony Giddens, Pierre Bour-
dieu or John Barrett. First, in agency theory, agency
and structure are distinct, while, in dynamic nomina-
lism, self-categorisation can work only if structure
and agency are coterminous. Here, structures are
constituted by ingrained practices, which define self
and group in quotidian action, but are open to
change. This position is consistent with Raewyn Con-
nell’s (1987.94) criticism of Giddens’ ahistorical
agency, namely that, where the link between struc-
ture and agency is a logical one, the form of the link
cannot change through history. Secondly, whereas
theorists such as Barrett see human subjects defining
themselves through a continuous process of redisco-
very of practical knowledge, Blake argues that self-
definition channels the process of knowledge acqui-
sition, providing actions with a description which is
already part of the process of self-definition. Thus,
people and groups are constituted by a reflexive hi-
storical process – the creation of categories of peo-
ple, which leads to the emergence of people who fit
the new categories (Chapman 2000).
Since terms such as ‘social role’ (e.g., Binford 1971)
and ‘personhood’ (e.g., Meskell 1999) have general-
ly been used in rather different archaeological re-
search traditions, it is important to theorise the re-
lationships between these key terms. Lynn Meskell’s
(1999.34–36) differentiation of five aspects of the
term ‘person’ include two aspects of direct relevance
to this paper: (1) individuals as distinguished through
their actions as artists or craftspeople, or through
their use of technological styles (as in Hill and Gunn
1970); and (2) representations of individuals in ico-
nography, architecture or documentary evidence
(e.g., lists of weavers or metalworkers). Chris Fow-
ler (2004.4–6) differentiates ‘social identity’ the
roles which people held (e.g., shaman, priest, moth-
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John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
er) from ‘social personae’ – the presentation of any
combination of these roles in a specific interaction.
His characterisation of personhood as “the genera-
tion of people alongside their social worlds through
social technologies” does not, however, refer to the
social identities and personae he discusses at the
outset; indeed, what Fowler calls ‘social identity’ and
‘social personae’ play little further role in his other-
wise excellent book, apart from a mention of “high-
ranking warriors” (2004.95). Nonetheless, the im-
portance in generating personhood that Fowler attri-
butes to the role of bodies, substances, objects and
the fields of social relations in which they actively
participate indicates that a person’s diverse and em-
bodied roles, set within a nexus of quotidian rela-
tions, have a significant contribution to make to per-
sonhood. Indeed, it is claimed here that it is impos-
sible to draw a complete and nuanced picture of per-
sonhood in the past without including the individ-
ual skills acquired through the successful perfor-
mance of social practices.
It is well recognised that the acquisition and devel-
opment of embodied skills and competences, the
linking of actions to knowledge through memory
and the effects of training and apprenticeship are
key facets of a person’s participation in social life.
Whether individuals learn from their family, their
peer groups, specialists or personal contacts in long-
distance travel, these practices
are the very life-blood of the so-
cial relationships through which
persons emerge and grow. It is
important to underline that we
do not adopt an exclusive ap-
proach to skills and competen-
ces, viz., that an Early Neolithic
‘potter’ does little other than
make Early Neolithic pots. It is the
possibility of the combination and
re-combination of different skills in
the same person, family or community
that leads to the individualisation of per-
sons through their distinctive combinations of
embodied skills and competences.
An example of the proliferation of social practices,
each of which required social relationships and in-
dividual competences, is Stig Sørensen’s ethno-his-
torical account of the annual cycle of activities con-
nected with food production within a 17th century
farming community in Jämtland, Sweden (Søren-
sen 2000.110–111, Fig. 6.1; based on Wichman
1968 and pers. information from L. Rathje, Umeå
University) (here reproduced as Fig. 1 and Tab. 1).
This list of 104 activities suggested the involvement
of different people at different times of the year and
at different levels of technological complexity. Many
tasks could have been completed only with the
shared labour of more than one person, with so-
cially determined agreements on the age- and gen-
der-based division of labour. Sørensen notes that
most tasks could have been performed by any adult,
whatever their gender.
These Swedish data on agricultural activities re-
minds us of the importance of technological infor-
mation from archaeological sources on the opera-
tional chain (from the French chaîne opératoire).
André Leroi-Gourhan (1964) introduced the term
chaîne opératoire“ to lithic studies in the 1960’s –
at the time, the field was dominated by typological
studies, but with new approaches competing for at-
tention. After numerous developments, not least by
Jean-Michel Geneste (1985), Nicole Pigeot (1987)
Fig. 1. Ethno-historical account of the annual cycle
of activities within a seventeenth-century farm-
ing community in Jämtland, Sweden (Based
on Wichman 1968 and information sup-
plied by L. Rathje, UmeåUniversity)
(source Sørensen 2000.Fig. 6.1)
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
1 transporting hay 2 shearing sheep 3 teasing wool
4 sewing 5 transporting firewood, 6 cutting spruce twigs
fodder and spruce twigs
7 spinning wool 8 preparing hemp and spinning 9 threshing
10 driving for the ironworks 11 working on wagons, wooden 12 threshing
containers and nets
13 to the annual Candlemas market 14 transport and cutting 15 spinning
spruce sprigs and bark
16 weaving cloth 17 bringing home fodder 18 cutting timber
19 threshing (1-2 days per week) 20 transporting iron ore and coal 21 threshing (1-2 days per week)
22 spinning, reeling and winding 23 weaving cloth or frieze 24 travel to Norway
25 driving for the ironworks 26 hay and wood transporting 27 binding nets and seine
28 hemp spinning 29 travel to the Gregory market 30 flax spinning starts
31 transporting hay and fodder 32 spinning flax 33 end of threshing
34 cutting and transporting firewood 35 transporting manure 36 cutting fence poles
37 sand and ash spread on 38 cloth weaving 39 preparing tools for farming
remaining snow
40 grinding grain 41 drying seed grain 42 baking
43 spreading manure 44 ploughing 45 enclosing pastures
46 sowing 47 enclosing pastures 48 weeding the fields
49 enclosing pastures 50 sowing flax and hemp 51 drying and grinding
52 carpentry of hay barns etc. 53 weeding the fields 54 closing the field fence
55 linen weaving and bleaching 56 baking summer bread 57 weaving and sewing of different
58 boat repairing, fishing 59 harrowing the fallow 60 preparing scythes, rakes etc.
61 harvesting the starrbog 62 birch bark collecting 63 harvesting the starrbog
in the mountains in the mountains
64 birch bark collecting 65 harvesting horse hay 66 harvesting horse hay
67 harvesting on hardvalls meadow 68 harvesting on hardvalls meadow 69 leaves harvest
70 possibly harvesting the starrbog 71 leaves harvest 72 possibly harvesting the starrbog
73 collecting the harvest 74 collecting the harvest 75 leaves harvest
76 leaves harvest 77 bringing home the harvest 78 turnips and Swedish turnips har-
vesting, roots collecting
79 bringing home the harvest 80 turnips and Swedish turnips 81 ploughing of the fallow and fields
harvesting, roots collected with straw on
82 threshing and drying 83 grinding grain 84 shearing sheep
85 baking 86 slaughtering 87 knitting socks and gloves
88 clearing of meadows 89 cutting spruce twigs 90 wood, timber and pole cutting
91 cutting wood for handicrafts 92 teasing and spinning wood 93 winter clothes preparing
94 transporting firewood 95 transporting timber 96 bringing home starr fodder
and spruce twigs and building timber
97 handicraft 98 spinning wool 99 baking and making food for
100 cutting spruce twigs 101 travel to Norway 102 transporting and cutting firewood
103 threshing 104 travel to market
Tab. 1. Ethno-historical account of the annual cycle of activities within a seventeenth-century farming
community in Jämtland, Sweden. (Based on Wichman 1968 and information supplied by L. Rathje, Umeå
University) (source Sørensen 2000.110–111, Fig. 6.1)
and Nathan Schlanger (1996), the approach is now
the mainstream approach to developing rigorous in-
terpretations of Palaeolithic lithic assemblages. In
essence, the chaîne opératoire seeks to define sta-
ges in the fabrication of a product, each of which
can be recognised by diagnostic débitage. The re-
fitting of lithic pieces is a fundamental part of this
research. Erwin Cziesla (1990.9–10) has distingui-
shed three kinds of lithic re-fits: (1) re-fitting arte-
facts in a production sequence, i.e. the reconstruc-
tion of core reduction sequences; (2) re-fitting bro-
ken artefacts, possibly including non-intentional bre-
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John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
akages; and (3) re-fitting the products of artefact mo-
difications such as axe re-sharpening. The breadth
of insights offered by this approach is amply demon-
strated in the massive corpus of studies edited by
Cziesla et al. (1990): some of the best technical stu-
dies derive from the long-term study of the Upper
Palaeolithic, Magdalenian campsites at Pincevent,
near Paris (Bodu et al. 1990).
In this study, the operational chain approach is used
to identify activities carried out by a person or a
group of persons. Using the list of Swedish agricultu-
ral activities as a baseline for comparison, it beco-
mes clear that only some of these practices would
have been carried out by foragers in the Near East
and Europe, while others were more appropriate to
Eurasian farmers. In this complex and multi-faceted
transition from foraging to farming, the new types
of skills and competences developed within the
context of unfamiliar social relationships produced
new types of individual in this bi-directional process
of categorisation. It is now time to turn to the iden-
tification of key skills in the Mesolithic and Early
Neolithic of South East Europe.
Social roles and categories of individuals I: the
The following series of social identities related to
key tasks represents the distillation of the literature
on the Mesolithic of South East Europe in successive
conference reports on “The Mesolithic in Europe”
(e.g., Kozłowski 1973; Bonsall 1989; Larsson et al.
2003). A minimal suite of 15 types of personal skills
can be identified (Tab. 2), indicating that individu-
alising forms of personhood were present, if not
well-established, in foraging communities.
In the following comments, there will be no attempt
to make an essentialising characterisation of such
and such a role, nor any claim to a full discussion of
persons with such skills as ‘hunters’ or ‘fisherwo-
men’. These comments are simply pointers in the
direction of a whole gamut of complex cultural
worlds at which we have space only to hint.
Hunting required long training in the ways of the
forest, the behaviour of prey and the co-ordination
of individual hunters if working in groups. The re-
ward for success could have been the acquisition of
a high reputation, insofar as they were associated
with high-status foods (Sørensen 2000.117). Their
importance was underlined through the sharing of
meat back at camp (Isaac 1978). Hunters tended to
be male and often featured in story-telling, as part
of community origin-myths (Parkington 2002).
Shellfish-collecting led to the gathering of a seden-
tary food which was often regarded as tasty if low-
status, with the main training relating to its location.
This led to the ascription of shellfish-collectors as
low-status persons, especially by males in their com-
munity (Claassen 1998). They rarely featured in com-
munity-wide story-telling, but their own group acti-
vity often included story-telling. Usually, women and
children collected shellfish (Claassen 1991; 1998).
Kind of personal skills Archaeological evidence Site example
Hunting projectile points< wild animal bones Schela Cladovei
Shellfish collecting shellfish as food debris Trieste caves
Fishing fish bones as food debris< fish-traps< hooks< harpoons< Lepenski Vir
carp-stunning batons
Plant gathering plant food remains< pollen of edible sp. Ezero pollen diagram
Building house remains Lepenski Vir
Plastering remains of plastered floors Lepenski Vir
Basket-making ||| |||
Grater-board making high densities of microliths Lepenski Vir
Bow-and-arrow making arrowheads Pobiti Kamani
Flint-knapping production debris< Pobiti Kamani
Stone-carving boulder sculptures Lepenski Vir
Resource collecting resources from all zones outside the immediate site locale Cuina Turcului
Long-distance resource exotic materials or finished objects procurement Lepenski Vir
Warring weapons, weapon-tools and tool-weapons< defensive structures Ostrovul Corbului
Shamanic practices totemic rituals ||| but cf. Star Carr (UK)
Tab. 2. Kinds of personal skills in hunter-gatherer – fisher societies.
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
Fishing required training in the places where to fish,
the habits of the fish and, above all, in patience. The
significance of fisher-folk varied with the difference
between sea-fishing and river-fishing. Sea-fishing
was altogether a much more complex practice, with
the construction of seaworthy boats a complex task
in itself (e.g., implicated in the Greek Mesolithic by
the discovery of Melian obsidian and large fish bones
at Franchthi Cave: Jacobsen 1976; but see Perlès
2003). River-fishing required far less complex equip-
ment. The species of river fish caught made a diffe-
rence to the prowess of the fisherman: contrast the
Lepenski Vir sturgeon, with its large body weight,
availability of caviar and symbolic significance (Ra-
dovanovi 1997), with small cyprinids caught in nets
from a sluggish stream or dead meander in the Great
Hungarian Plain (Bartosiewicz 2007).
Plant-gathering was an important practice for the
community, because most of a group’s food was pro-
duced by gathering plants (Conkey, Spector 1984).
A deep knowledge of local ecology was important in
this task (Watson, Kennedy 1991.184–185). None-
theless, the often low status of plant foods could lead
to the categorisation of plant-gatherers as low-status
persons, again if males dominated processes of social
categorisation. These tasks were often performed by
women and children (Zihlman 1989).
Building gained in importance with the rise of se-
dentary foragers, although even the construction of
seasonal shelters required certain embodied skills
which were not shared by every member of a forager
community. The importance of builders lay in their
creation of the very physical framework of a dwel-
ling – the most intimate place of forager life. The
classic Palaeolithic example concerns the mammoth-
bone structures made by Gravettian hunter-gatherers
in Central and Eastern Europe (Soffer 2003). Even
more pertinent examples, from the Central Balkans,
are the trapezoidal structures of Lepenski Vir, Vlasac
and Padina in the Iron Gates Mesolithic (Radovano-
vi 1996), whose unusual forms cited the Djerdap
landscape in the form of a trapezoidal mountain op-
posite Lepenski Vir, as well as coeval mortuary prac-
tices (Srejovi and Babovi 1983.drawings 17–19).
Over a period of 600 years, generations of builders
maintained an extraordinary dimensional stability
for the trapezoidal house, approaching the harmo-
nious length/width ratio of the Golden Mean, or Fi-
bonacci’s series (Chapman, Richter 2009). It is in-
conceivable that each new generation of builders
was not inculcated into the symbolic significance and
geometric harmonies of the dimensions of the tra-
pezoidal house, as well as the ways in which they
were best constructed. A particular mention should
be made of the Lepenski Vir plasterers, who were the
first foragers in Europe to construct solid, flood-resi-
stant floors using sand mixed with ground limestone
heated to over 600° C (Nandris 1988).
Basket-making and string-bag-making comprised
tasks with long and complex chaînes opératoires
which involve multiple authorship and where the
technology can be seen as a metaphor for society
(Finlay 2003).
Grater-board making required composite raw ma-
terials, including wood, gum and lithic points, indi-
cating long and complex chaînes opératoires as with
basket-makers (Finlay 2003).
Bow and arrow making needed a suite of skills
for making arrows and another for constructing
bows. Once again, there are long and complex chaî-
nes opératoires which involve multiple authorship
and where the technology can be seen as a metaphor
for society (Finlay 2003).
Flint-knapping can, through the chaîne opératoire,
be differentiated as skilled knappers, novices (chil-
dren) and moderately skilled workers (e.g., the Mag-
dalenian site of Les Étiolles: Bodu et al. 1990). To
the extent that they were capable of making high-
quality products, knappers could become high-status
persons. Their gender is not clear.
Stone-carving was not common in the Mesolithic pe-
riod anywhere in Europe, and perhaps the greatest
surprise of the Lepenski Vir excavations was the dis-
covery of large boulder sculptures representing hu-
mans, fish, the flowing currents of the Danube, mean-
droid patterns imitating coeval early farmers’ pinta-
deras, and a range of other less decipherable motifs
(Srejovi and Babovi 1983). The limestone and
sandstone boulders were brought several kilometres
from the adjoining Boljetin Gorge, and indicate fla-
king for approximate shape before grinding, polishing
and engraving on the final shape and the motifs.
Resource-collection focussed on a variety of raw
material resources, whether local resources or re-
sources from further afield, collected during other
foraging or hunting trips. The status of these re-
sources was often positively correlated with distance
and degree of exoticity. Once again, the gender of
resource collectors is uncertain, but almost certainly
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John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
Long-distance resource acquisition represented
the extreme of the spatial spectrum of resource
acquisition. The persons involved would have been
skilled in negotiation and languages and prepared
to make long, dangerous trips outside the commu-
nity territory. If successful, they would have returned
with high-status exotics and exotic experiences,
cementing their importance as high-status persons
who could control sacred resources (Helms 1993).
The gender of long-distance specialists is unclear,
but most prehistorians assume a male identity.
Warring was characterised by the warriors’ per-
sonal strength and skills and, for that reason, are
usually gendered as male. The high concentration
of weapons in the Iron Gates Mesolithic, together
with the evidence for ‘Mesolithic’ bone points used
to kill other ‘foragers’, indicates the probability of
males designated as ‘warriors’ along the Danube
Gorges (Chapman 1999; Roksandi 2004).
Ritual practices involving shamans was an impor-
tant form of social practice among foragers, with a
ritual specialist with powers of shape-shifting and
moving between media such as the heavens, the
earth and the underworld (Vitebsky 2001). There is
little doubt that the role of shaman was vital to the
social reproduction of the group through the main-
tenance of proper relations with the ancestors and
This set of types of person is not an exhaustive list
of the categorisation of individual skills in the Euro-
pean Mesolithic. Nonetheless, those persons who
were identified with the progressive development
and ultimate mastery of such skills would have gai-
ned a reputation for what they managed to achieve,
whether through episodic practices (e.g., making
grater-boards), more frequent activities (e.g., food-
gathering and shell-collecting), or the construction
of enduring frameworks for life (builders and plas-
terers). To the extent that most individuals in a Me-
solithic community would have learnt several of
these skills, their social identities would have rep-
resented a complex integration of a range of diverse
embodied skills. In this sense, foragers would have
begun the road to individualising personhood which,
later, became more elaborated in Neolithic societies.
In the same way, the inter-personal links implicit in
all of the multi-authored objects and the enchained
links objectified in the biographies of every single
artefact would have created and reinforced relatio-
nal personhood and relational community structu-
res with each day of labour.
Social roles and categories of individuals II:
the Early Neolithic
It is widely accepted that the emergence of farming
was a fundamental social change in South East Eu-
rope (Whittle 1996; Tringham 2000; Spataro and
Biagi 2007). The emergence of new kinds of social
practices arising simultaneously with their definition
was therefore of major importance in these times of
widespread change (for the emergence of different
kinds of skills with diverse individual persons in the
‘Climax’ Copper Age, see Chapman and Gaydarska
2006.Ch. 7). New individual persons of each period
would have been created within expanded forms of
relational personhood through the impact of new
kinds of social groupings, new embodied skills and
new raw materials.
A comparison of the types of embodied skills listed
in Tables 2 and 3 shows that most of these contin-
ued in existence in the early farming period, even if
in variant form. An exception appears to be those
stone-carvers who produced larger-scale sculptures;
smaller-scale ornaments tend to typify the early far-
ming period. Without wishing to go into the detail
represented by Sørensen’s (2000) list (see above,
Fig. 1 and attached Tab. 1), it is clear that early far-
ming depended on a far wider range of skills and
competences than in the foraging period. These new
embodied skills – probably not exhaustive in scope
– can be identified as follows (Tab. 3).
Farming consists of a complex set of practices in-
volving new concepts of time and place and new re-
lationships to the land, the soil and often the forest
(Ingold 2000). Farming requires the co-ordination of
intensive labour to produce new resources. These
various tasks involve the making and use of new
tools (e.g., hoes, sieves, sickles) and new containers
(e.g., storage-jars, cooking vessels, serving vessels
and, possibly, also baskets and textile bags), espe-
cially with the development of brewing (drinking
sets). Many of these practices constitute multi-per-
son tasks, each with a long chaîne opératoire – only
one person of which is the farmer. This set up com-
plex relations of inter-dependency between those
participating in the chaînes opératoires. Comments
follow on only a few selected examples of the most
varied of these roles.
Cereal cultivation required experience of a variety
of places to select the areas best suited for field culti-
vation, involving training from an early age; know-
ledge of the ecological meaning of vegetation on a
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
potential field in terms of soil conditions and ferti-
lity; the observation of flood patterns over time; the
growth of previous crops in different places, and a
sense of the required duration of the growing season
(Watson, Kennedy 1991). Small-scale horticulture
transferred these locational decisions to the place of
settlement, where intensive fertilising and weeding
could mitigate any problems of ‘natural’ fertility. The
accumulation of experience and training and obser-
vation was not necessarily gendered, although wo-
men may well have taken the lead in these tasks.
Hoeing depended on the production of a suitably
heavy stone hoe-blade, firmly attached to a wooden
handle, and the expenditure of considerable physi-
cal energy in breaking the ground for sowing (Spec-
tor 1983.148–153 and Tab. 1). There is no reason to
suppose that females and males would not have de-
veloped effective hoeing skills.
Ploughing symbolised the integration of herding
and farming, with new relations between persons
and animals and the potential for cattle to increase
their status as never before. Ploughmen required
years of training to co-ordinate their actions with
their draught animal(s) and the plough itself (Lewth-
waite 1985), with the castration and training of the
draught animal perhaps the most complex task. The
making of the plough, using different types of raw
materials (e.g., leather, wood and antler / stone /
metal), was in itself a specialist task with a complex
chaîne opératoire: a woodworker working with a
stone-worker and a leather-worker, and only then a
ploughman. An effective plough-team constituted an
important resource that could be shared between
households or used in exchange arrangements (for
the ‘capitalist investment’ potential of Bronze Age
plough-teams, see Gilman 1981). There is a wide-
spread, but not altogether secure assumption that
ploughing teams were led by males (Díaz-Andreu
Fence-making required a contrasting range of skills,
combining woodland management with carpentry
Kind of personal skills Archaeological evidence Site example
Farming cultivated grain Azmashka mogila
Ditch-digging field boundaries Ceithi Fields (Ireland)
Hoeing stone hoe-blades< soil micro-morphological traces of hoeing Linearbandkeramik
Ploughing stone or antler plough-shares< Ca˘scioarele
soil micro-morphological or Belgian LBK
macro-traces of ploughmarks South Street (UK)
Fence-making lines of post- or stake-holes round fields Dubravica
Weeding purity of archaeo-botanical sample Chavdar
Baking domestic ovens Sofia – Slatina
Brewing isotopic traces of alcohol< traces of pollen of sweet plants |||
(mead)or honey
Animal keeping
Cow-herding animal bones Ovcharovo-Gorata
Swine-herding animal bones Ovcharovo-Gorata
Goat-herding animal bones Ovcharovo-Gorata
Shepherding animal bones Ovcharovo-Gorata
Dairy producing isotopic traces of milk lipids Ecsegfalva 23
Cooking cooking vessels Schela Cladovei
Clay preparing clay vessels< stored piles of raw clay |||
Vessel forming clay vessels Pernik
Pot-painting decorated clay vessels Rakitovo
Pot-decorating decorated clay vessels Kardzhali
Other crafts
Figurine-making fired clay, bone and stone figurines Azmashka mogila
Figurine-knapping deliberate fragmentation of figurines Anza
Spinning spindle-whorls Rakitovo
Weaving loom-weights, mat impressions Divostin I
Ornament-making finely made stone and shell artifacts Kardzhali
Basket-making basket-impressions in pottery Endro˝d 119
Tab. 3. Additional kinds of personal skills in early farming societies.
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John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
skills. The coppicing of hazel was a common me-
thod of producing the thin, straight rods needed for
fencing (cf. for Somerset Levels, Coles, Orme 1977;
Rackham 1977; Orme, Coles 1983). The use of a po-
lished stone axe for reducing the coppiced rods to
equivalent lengths, and their insertion into the
ground, were less specialised skills. There is no ob-
vious gendering of this task.
Ditch-digging in a range of different soil and sub-
surface geological conditions (especially abrasive
sands and gravels) needed a steady supply of fresh
scapula shovels, as well as containers (probably bas-
kets) to remove the loose fill. The year-on-year stock-
piling of scapulae tools was therefore essential for
this work, unless many head of cattle were butchered
as part of related ritual practices. The irregular align-
ment of ditch segments in British enclosed sites (the
so-called ‘causewayed camps’) has been interpreted
as a sign of multiple groups of ditch-diggers, possibly
organised at the family level (Startin, Bradley 1981).
Thus, although the digging of ditches was not neces-
sarily a good way to gain reputation, it required fa-
mily co-ordination and careful advanced planning
(future-orientation) to maintain stocks of tools.
Weeding played an important role in the agricultu-
ral cycle; yet the frequent archaeobotanical discove-
ries of crop-weeds (weeds of cultivation) indicates
that they were often only partly successful. The re-
petitious and physically demanding nature of this
task has led (often male) archaeologists to suggest
that this work was performed by women and chil-
dren – often with no real justification (but see Spe-
ctor 1983.148–53, Tab. 1; Wright 1991).
Baking was attested in the majority of, if not all,
Neolithic households and was responsible for early
and simple forms of bread. Before the so-called
‘bread wheats’, the Neolithic norm would have been
unleavened bread that rose little, if at all, in baking
(Wood 2000). The significance of invariably careful-
ly constructed ovens in Neolithic houses may have
related as much to the heating of the home as it did
to the baking of bread and other foods. This role
may not have been recognised as anything but one
additional household task, with the assumption that
it was mostly performed by women.
Brewing depended on the production of cereals for
their own task – the creation of alcoholic beverages
of widespread use for individual and social pleasure,
as well as ritual concoctions and medicinal potions
(Braidwood et al. 1953; Sherratt 1987). The key re-
liance on potters capable of producing large coarse
ware containers, as well as small fine ware cups and
mugs, shows the close linkage between brewers, far-
mers and potters. The gender of brewers is not ob-
vious, but was probably linked to household pro-
This brief summary of the requirements of a few se-
lected farming practices suffices to show that almost
every individual task could be sub-divided into fur-
ther sub-tasks without whose accomplishment the
‘main’ task could not be completed. All of these tasks,
with the exception of weeding, required the prior
production of tools or facilities, each in turn with the
implication of raw material procurement from near
or far. It is the scale of coordination that puts the
growing of crops and their varied usage at the heart
of a mixed farming economy.
Animal husbandry was part and parcel of a new
kind of relationship with animals – their inclusion
within households as something more than hunks of
dead meat from the wild wood (Jones, Richards
2003). Their herding involved long-term relation-
ships with shepherds, goatherds, cowherds or swine-
herds. The main element of a herder’s life was the
devotion of a lot of time to their animals, leaving
them free to collect resources, knap flint, grind stone,
carve wood, etc. If the keeping of animals involved
even limited seasonal mobility, the herder would
have travelled to a wider range of places than most
of the rest of the community. The use of secondary
animal products – especially milk – would have in-
creased the significance of the herder, linking them
to other members of the community (ploughmen,
dairy producers, etc., Sherratt 1981). The high-sta-
tus products that animals yielded were not necessa-
rily correlated with high reputations amongst her-
ders, whose gender was variable.
Dairy production, which included cheese-making
as well as the production of milk, yoghurt, curds,
etc., (Sherratt 1981) constitutes a good example of
quite new types of person, performing new daily
tasks (milking and dairy production) which depen-
ded on the secondary products of potentially three
animals – cattle, sheep and goats. The production of
high-quality cheese would have been dependent
upon regular supplies of salt from near or far (Chap-
man, Gaydarska 2003). While most dairy products
would have formed local networks of consumption,
there was the potential for the exchange and trans-
portation of cheeses. The gender of dairy producers
is hard to determine, but these tasks were linked
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
to the home and often assumed to have been per-
formed by women.
Cooking was a vital part of Neolithic life styles,
which were characterised by the production of a
wider range of edible foods and an expanded range
of culinary techniques than previously (Wood 2000).
These changes added to the potential for food-shar-
ing and hospitality in the early farming period, when
cooking both outdoors and indoors was often linked
to other social strategies (Halstead 1999). Each new
foodstuff offered the opportunity for new combina-
tions of foodstuffs in a single dish, whether based
on cereals, pulses, wild plants, meat or fish. The gen-
der of cooks is not clear, and it may be assumed that
both males and females cooked for both domestic
meals and feasts (cf. Spector 1983.148–53, Tab. 1).
The picture from animal husbandry and the use of
animal products reinforces the pattern of multiple,
overlapping tasks performed more often than not by
groups of related persons. The accomplishment of
such tasks was coterminous with the creation of so-
cial structure itself through daily interaction.
At the beginning of the Neolithic, pottery-making
was a new craft skill for most regions in Europe. Vi-
telli (1995) has argued that the high status of these
new objects connoted high status for the persons
who made them. However, the chaîne opératoire
is bulk-dependent. The production of a few vessels
per annum, as in the Greek Early Neolithic at Fran-
chthi Cave may required one high-status person (Vi-
telli 1995), while the preparation of many vessels
per annum, as in the Balkan Early Neolithic (Chap-
man 2003), would have needed the collection of
much larger quantities of clay, temper and pigment,
as well as the shaping, firing and painting of many
more vessels. This chaîne opératoire could poten-
tially have benefited from co-operation between dif-
ferent persons of varying status (for a discussion of
production stages, see Wright 1991; Gheorghiu
2008). The analysis of many Balkan pottery samples
has shown that, without exception, local clay sour-
ces were used in the Early Neolithic (Spataro 2007).
Thus, increased production would have led to com-
plex relations of inter-dependency (as with farming),
which were interwoven with local consumption
links to other social practices (e.g., ritual, farming,
etc.). There was a high potential in pottery-making
for the materialisation of broader exchange net-
works and links to other worlds.
Figurine making and knapping were almost cer-
tainly performed by part-time craftspersons in the
early farming period, because of the low incidence
of figurines, whether anthropomorphic or zoomor-
phic (Nanoglou 2008). Spataro’s (2007) results on
the use of local clay for pottery were replicated for
the sources of clay for figurines. It is possible that
household production was the norm, given the com-
bination of little standardization of either major ca-
tegory of image and the small numbers produced.
The equivalence of potters and figurine-makers is
not necessarily certain, since the shaping of the two
types of object is clearly very different. The delibe-
rate breaking of Early Neolithic figurines has been
well attested (Chapman 2000a; Chapman and Gay-
darska 2006) – a task that is not necessarily much
easier than their making. Experimental studies
showed that the accidental breakage of figurines
was rare, since the lightweight nature of the objects
meant that the impact from falling was minimal
(Chapman et al. n.d.). The making of some anthro-
pomorphic figurines in three parts one lump of
clay for the body and one for each leg – reinforced
the cyclical process of making, using, breaking, re-
using and deposition; breaking along the lines of
weakness was therefore highlighted. The roles of
the makers and breakers of figurines were probably
performed at the household level, with household
ritual the main context for figurine use and re-use.
Spinning and weaving have now been attested
from the Upper Palaeolithic (Soffer et al. 2000), so
that their ‘appearance’ in early farming communities
can more accurately be termed a ‘re-appearance’,
although there is scant evidence for Mesolithic spin-
ning and weaving. The symbolism of spinning and
weaving in Post-Classic Mexico “defined female
identity as one source of control over reproduc-
tion and thus as a basis of female power”. Such
symbolism created a set of meaningful associa-
tions that united women as an interest group”. The
tools of spinning and weaving (spindles, spindle-
whorls and battens) acted as symbols of this female
power (McCafferty, McCafferty 1998.213, 223). It
has been demonstrated for the Iron Age that specta-
cular amounts of ‘free’ time were required for spin-
ning enough yarn for household clothing (Tuohy
2000), and there is no particular reason to discount
this requirement of time in early farming house-
holds. Lines of loom-weights within Early Neolithic
houses (e.g., Tiszajenő: Selmeczi 1969) suggest that
many households would have made their own cloth
and/or clothing. There is still a debate – embedded
in the secondary products issue – over the materials
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John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
used for early clothing – whether linen and leather
(Sherratt 1981) or linen, leather and wool (Chap-
man 1982). Whatever the solution, it is agreed that
the more elaborate the clothing, the higher its status.
The problems with assessing the quality and ornate-
ness of early clothing make it difficult to assess the
date at which the high potential for the exchange of
cloth was realised. The ethnographic data favour the
gender of spinners and weavers as more probably
female, but there is no reason that this should apply
to the Balkan Early Neolithic.
Stone ornament-making was effected by persons
whose skills were high, but not often employed, sug-
gesting that there is a high probability that they were
part-time specialists. Almost by definition, the pres-
tige goods that were made meant that the ornaments
created high-status persons in the process of making.
The exotic nature of the materials used meant that
ornament-makers were heavily dependent on regio-
nal, if not inter-regional, exchange networks and,
most likely, on long-distance specialists. It is also pos-
sible that they were long-distance specialists them-
selves. Their finely-tuned skills were not found in
every household and possibly not even in every com-
munity; it seems improbable that there was more
than one person in a community (e.g., the Early Neo-
lithic Galabnik community in Western Bulgaria,
where exquisite nephrite ornaments were made
(Kostov, Bakamska 2004; Kostov 2008)). The links
between ornament-makers and figurine-makers ra-
rely overlapped; an exceptions include the marble
anthropomorphic figurine from Azmashka mogila
(Georgiev 1965; Kalchev on p. 37) and
the marble figurines from Kovachevo (Blagoevgrad
Museum). There is no evidence as to the gender of
ornament-makers – rather a high level of training,
probably in the family of older ornament-makers.
Traditional skills in the Early Neolithic
The quantity and diversity of new roles and poten-
tial statuses in the early farming period should not
cause us to overlook the traditional skills inherited
from the Mesolithic period. At least 15 categories of
skills can be identified.
The role of hunting was only partly replaced by
that of herding. In a recent evaluation of the status
of hunting in the Körös culture of Eastern Hungary,
Bartosiewicz (2007a) observed that those sites with
high counts of wild animals in their faunal spectra
had the smallest bone assemblages and that, in as-
semblages comprising over 10 000 bone elements,
there was a high proportion of domestic animals –
upwards of 90%. Nonetheless, the prey that hunters
captured were still valued foods, converting hunters
into persons of repute. We should also not forget
the significance of specific wild animal parts for
some of the most intimate aspects of domestic life:
auroch metapodia for spoons in Hungary (Nandris
1972a) and wild boar bristles for painting the finest
pottery decoration in Bulgaria (Chapman 2011).
There were probably groups of hunters who were
part-time specialists, requiring the integration of one
or two members from any given household.
As with hunting, the skills required for plant-gathe-
ring could have only partly contributed to those
necessary for farming, leaving a generalist practice
of variable status effected by each household.
Fishing and shellfish-collecting continued to play
the same role as in the Mesolithic, as producers of
different food for special occasions. The seemingly
ubiquitous decline in marine and freshwater protein
contributions to the diets of early farming commu-
nities (Bonsall et al. 2000; Milner et al. 2004; Honch
et al. 2006; Smits et al. 2010) means that fish and
shellfish consumption was limited to once per week
for the dietary signal to be absent. The status of such
fisher(wo)men and shellfish-collectors, which were
embedded in household practices, is more difficult
to estimate than the gender – probably female for
shell-collectors and male for fisher-folk (see above).
Building formed another suite of different embod-
ied skills requiring collective mobilisation and co-
ordination. Although the houses of the Iron Gates
Mesolithic demonstrate that building was already a
skilled activity among sedentary foragers, with par-
ticularly innovative skills in floor-plastering, there
is a great expansion in the scale of building, and in
the size of buildings, in the Neolithic. Duan Bori
(2008) has viewed the Neolithic as a change from
dwelling to building. Experimental work studies on
Neolithic house building (e.g., Cotiuga˘, Cotoi 2004)
shows that the time taken is equivalent to that re-
quired to build a small megalith (viz., 800 people/
hours for a single-roomed 8 x 6m house: Startin
1978; cf. 6900 people/hours for the earthen long
barrow of Fussell’s Lodge: Startin and Bradley 1981).
This task is a multi-stage process, beginning with the
assembling of materials (clay, water, temper, wood),
the choice of place, and all the necessary pre-build-
ing rituals, and only then proceeding to the actual
construction by a team of persons. At a minimum,
this includes woodworkers, wattle-makers or reed-
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
workers, plasterers and painters, and thatchers, as
well as their helpers.
Woodworking depended upon the collection of both
large timbers from ancient trees for main structural
members and smaller (? coppiced) posts for internal
and external fittings. The range of polished stone
tools available for these tasks included axes, adzes,
wedges and chisels. However, the almost total ab-
sence of large woodworking tools in the Balkan Early
Neolithic may have hindered the use of really heavy
timbers11. This technical issue may relate to the pre-
valence of low clay wall settings supporting thin
posts in Bulgarian Early Neolithic houses (Nikolov
1996). The creation of larger tools from the Mature
Farming period onward, and in the Linearbandkera-
mik further to the North-West – notably the Schuhlei-
stenkeil (Burnez-Lanotte 2001) – facilitated the ma-
nipulation of large tree-trunks for house construc-
The construction of exterior walls for early farming
houses was effected in one of two ways. For longer-
term structures, wattle-making was a critical part
of the house-building effort, for the infilling of wall
area between timber uprights depended on the cut-
ting of thin poles and their vertical and horizontal
interweaving (e.g., the illustration of later Neolithic
wattle walling from Divostin Phase IIb: Bogdano-
vi 1988.Fig. 5.25). The making of these poles on
any large scale would have involved the coppicing of
such species as hazel (Corylus sp.) as one form of
woodland management. Both of the rare pollen dia-
grams with detailed vegetational information for the
vegetation of early farming communities – Ecsegfal-
va – Kiri-tó and Sarló-hat, both in Hungary – indicate
that hazel was an increasingly frequent component of
the lowland vegetation (Willis 2007; Magyari 2002).
Despite the ready availability of hazel at Ecsegfalva
23, the main exterior walls of these light structures
were constructed through reed-working by the in-
sertion of bunches of reeds into the spaces between
small timber uprights (Carneiro, Mateiciucová 2007;
cf. the use of reeds in the houses at Early Neolithic
Nea Nikomedia, Northern Greece: Rodden 1962).
Plastering made an important contribution to the
solidity and impermeability of exterior and interior
walls of early houses, as well as their floors. The role
of the plasterer was closely related to that of the pot-
ter, at least in terms of the early stages of the potting
chaîne opératoire. The analysis of floor plasters at
Ecsegfalva 23 showed the use of dung as well as clay
for reed-tempered plaster (Carneiro, Mateiciucová
2007). These materials would have been mixed with
water to provide the correct consistency. Application
proceeded by hand to all of the treatable surfaces.
The insulation of the house against rain, snow and
wind, as well as the retention of heat generated by
cooking, fireplaces and body warmth – whether hu-
man or animal – were all important effects of plaste-
ring. In addition, the creation of a smooth, regular
floor surface was a marked improvement over a
stamped mud floor, not least in enabling the clean-
ing of the house and the removal of elements that
contributed to air pollution (Roberts n.d.). This role
was not a particularly specialist task and could pro-
bably have been completed within the household.
House-painting was probably achieved by pot-pain-
ters who applied their skills, in particular the col-
lection of the pigment and its mixing with a binder,
to the interior and perhaps exterior walls of hous-
es. This may have been a more specialist role than
that of plastering, because of the exotic nature of
some of the pigments.
Thatching would have completed the in-filling of
the roof of the house by the insertion of thatch or
reeds between the roof timbers. The work required
the construction of light ladders for access to the
upper roof space, as well as the collection and bun-
dling of large quantities of thatch or reeds. Once
again, this was not a specialist role and could have
been performed by members of the household (for
an account of Medieval and later thatching, see Moir
and Letts 1999).
These complex tasks demonstrate that building is,
above all, a collective practice involving perhaps all
or at least half of the community. This major task re-
quired a single co-ordinator – perhaps the builder, per-
1With only a few exceptions, there is a general lack of large working axes in the Greek, Balkan and Dalmatian Early Neolithic. The
excavated material from Early Neolithic settlements displayed in the Town Museum, Vratsa (N. W. Bulgaria) includes the largest col-
lection of working axes longer than 15cm known to us. It is possible that a proportion of the large working axes in the reserve col-
lections in the Regional Museum of Haskovo (S. E. Bulgaria) date to the Early Neolithic, but these axes are almost entirely surface
finds. In addition, the large polished stone axes from Early Neolithic Nea Nikomedeia have virtually no wear traces and were like-
ly to have been special deposits (Rodden 1962). The implication is that most activities involving breaking ground prior to sowing
would have been carried out using wooden digging-sticks or hoes. It is only after the start of the Middle Neolithic in Greece, the
Balkans and Dalmatia that large working axes become more common and were clearly used for heavy agricultural and/or wood-
working activities.
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John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
haps the village leader or household leader – who en-
sured that the design of the house complied with tra-
ditions. Christopher Alexander (1964) has shown that
designs in vernacular architecture were based on
copying previously successful structures. This indi-
cates that the successful builder – coordinator was ex-
perienced in construction, having observed and par-
ticipated in the erection of many other structures.
Flint-knapping continued to play a key role in tool
production in early farming communities, although
the forms of the tools in this period stood in mar-
ked contrast to those of the Mesolithic. The key in-
novation of the Early Neolithic was macroblade tech-
nology, in which raw materials of excellent quality
– usually honey-coloured flint from Bulgaria – were
used to produce macroblade cores from which long
blades were pressure-flaked using a fixed, heavy-duty
wooden facility, perhaps as large and complex as a
rural olive-press (Perlès 2001; Gurova 2004; Mano-
lakakis 2005). Such a facility was restricted to one
per village, if not one for a network of villages, in-
dicating a productive specialisation which created
high-status persons. Medio- and micro-lithic produ-
ction was also part and parcel of early farming lithic
technology, but was clearly far less specialised. It is
unlikely that either category of lithic producer was
a full-time specialist in the Early Neolithic.
Resource collecting was, if anything, more impor-
tant in the Early Neolithic than in the preceding pe-
riod, by dint of the much wider range of materials
needed for tools, ornaments, weapons, clay objects
and building materials. It is likely that more people,
rather than higher-status persons, were needed to
accomplish this vital task.
Long-distance acquisition of resources also in-
creased in significance in the Early Neolithic, given
the greater importance of exotic raw materials, es-
pecially ornaments (Chapman 2008). The context
of their travels comprised the inter-regional network
of stylistic connections materialised in coarse wares,
vessel shapes and technologies, and a wide range of
non-ceramic traits such as rod-head figurines, pinta-
deras, slotted antler sickles, bone spoons and tomato-
shaped loom-weights (Nandris 1972; 1972a). Such
multiple, specific traits indicated a widespread sha-
ring of lifeways (Chapman 2003), with kinship links
and exchange networks representing the most obvi-
ous means of sustaining these stylistic similarities.
Warfare has been less well attested in the Early
Neolithic of the Balkans, in general, than in the Me-
solithic of the Iron Gates gorge (Chapman 1999),
with a marked reduction in the frequency and dive-
rsity of tool-weapons and weapon-tools. But this ca-
tegory of person was still present, probably related
to specialist hunters.
This review of the traditional skills that were found
in early farming communities suggests three conclu-
sions: (1) the practices which were materialised in
these roles and skills show a considerable degree of
continuity in habitus between the Balkan Mesolithic
and the Balkan Early Neolithic; (2) the formation
of individualised personhood in the Neolithic was
not inherent in the Neolithic alone, but, rather, an
elaboration of Mesolithic forms of individualised
personhood; and (3) the combined total of traditio-
nal and new skills is a substantial figure. What are
the implications for relational personhood, for hou-
seholds and for early farming communities of this
striking diversification?
The tension between relational personhood and in-
creasing individualisation growing out of a wider
range of individual embodied skills is highly rele-
vant to Hernando’s general, social evolutionary mo-
del for the growth of what she terms ‘independent
individuality’ for persons of either gender (Hernan-
do n.d.). Hernando proposes a three-stage model: a
first stage, which is dominated by relational person-
hood; a later, second stage, conventionally dated to
the Metal Ages, with the emergence of hierarchical
relations and complementary gender roles; and a
third, even later stage, not dated by Hernando, in
which ‘individual personhood’ gradually increases
for males, while females maintained relational iden-
tities for a much longer period. While at pains to em-
phasise that this is a general social evolutionary mo-
del, and not necessarily characteristic of any specific
time/space development, Hernando stresses the im-
portance, in male individuality, of datable innova-
tions such as the beginning of writing. She also main-
tains that each culture has a different blend of de-
grees of individualisation, on a scale ranging from
strongly relational to strongly individualising.
For the present authors, there are two obvious is-
sues for what is an attractive general model with ge-
nuine insights into long-term social processes: (1)
there is no real attempt to anchor the model in spe-
cific time-space processes, developments, and histo-
rical contexts; and (2) the shift from relational to in-
dividualising personhood is never explained. Neither
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
of these weaknesses is necessarily fatal for the over-
all model, since it is possible using the approach out-
lined in this article to provide some robust chrono-
logical pointers for the emergence of individualising
tendencies. This emergence does not, indeed, date to
the Metal Ages, but can be related to the late foraging
period (Mesolithic and probably Upper Palaeolithic),
with an elaboration in the early farming period.
In terms of the relationship between personhood
and the creation of new skills, it is important to re-
call that there are approx. 25 new categories of
skills in the Early Neolithic – far more than in the
Mesolithic – as well as at least 15 traditional skills.
This provides an impressive range of close to 40
types of embodied skills and social roles for the cre-
ation of a new range of individualised persons. It
thus seems obvious to us that an important aspect
of each individual’s sense of personhood consists of
these combinations of embodied skills. We should
emphasise that this is not automatically an argu-
ment for early forms of specialisation – rather that
few persons would have been considered exclusi-
vely as a shepherd or as a milkmaid or as a warrior.
Here, in this complex world of social and physical
skills, personhood should be considered as multi-
faceted and subject to a wide range of relationships
and embodied skills, both of which contributed to
an individual’s persona. We seek to reconcile the
modus operandi of relational personhood (dividu-
als) with the encapsulation of new skills and practi-
ces in specific human bodies (individualizing results).
The child’s development of new skills would have
depended upon training by the members of the fa-
mily and the household, in which gradual increases
in body strength, linguistic competence, and hand-
eye co-ordination, as well as greater experience of
the task in hand, would have led to improved per-
formances (e.g., in making small pots). These impro-
vements would, in turn, have strengthened the rela-
tions with other members of the family and house-
hold, emphasising the key kinship elements of the
child’s relational personhood. With time, the family
and household would have identified in the child
those skills that had further potential for growth
(e.g., keen interest in plant-gathering) and those
where little could be done (viz., little talent for flint-
knapping). Doubtless, households with individual
adults with skills in stone figurine-making or bone-
working would have led to vertical transmission of
similar skills (Shennan, Steele 1999). But, at the
same time, those children with similar talents would
probably have begun to be more closely associated
with each other, forming an additional field of peer-
based learning (horizontal transmission) with im-
portant implications for dividuality. In the teenage
years, the increasing spatial range and complexity
of the person’s social world would have led to
greater variations in personal mobility, with a ten-
dency for greater male than female mobility and
therefore a tendency for gendered contrasts in the
creation of relational personhood through different
exposure to types of person both near and far from
the home settlement (Hernando et al. 2011).
In the case of cultural norms where the marriage of
two young adults led to the setting-up of a new
home, this creation formed the starting-point for a
new cycle of skills-acquisition. The building of the
house and the emergence of a new economy at least
partially based on that household, as well as rela-
tions with other households, both raised the ques-
tion of how the young couple could possibly acquire
the wide range of requisite skills for the develop-
ment of a successful household. The cultural trans-
mission of these new, and often highly diverse, skills
led to multiple new social relationships, which be-
came increasingly important in the further develop-
ment of relational personhood. In some cases, the
adult members of the household did indeed develop
their own embodied skills (e.g., in cooking, dairy
production, animal keeping, and flint-knapping),
while other persons with skills not acquired with-
in the household were brought into close relations
with the family (e.g., figurine-makers and nephrite
ornament-makers) and the new couple’s own fami-
lies added their own experience and skills base (e.g.,
weaving, potting and thatching). The successful re-
creation of the previous generation’s knowledge and
skills base may have been a critical factor in the sur-
vival of the new household. Both enchained rela-
tions with many other persons and the development
of embodied skills within the new household had
important contributions to make.
The average age of death for Neolithic persons
meant that only certain individuals reached the age
of biological maturity (e.g., 40 years). Joanna Ap-
pleby (2010) has discussed the many different life-
processes affecting older persons, including the ill-
nesses from which they suffered, the physical chan-
ges characterising degeneration, but also, more po-
sitively, the earlier relationships and community hi-
stories that they embody. However, she does not di-
scuss (at least in this paper) the ways in which de-
generation may have hindered or prohibited the
continuation of tasks requiring a certain level of bo-
chapman.qxd 21/11/2011 10:24 Page 35 (Black plate) a l t e n
John Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska
dily skill and/or strength. The survival of individu-
als to over 60 years (e.g., in Vlasac: Nemeskéri 1978)
may have required new forms of enchained rela-
tions of care and food provision in which the wider
families took responsibility for the aged. The physi-
cal completion of many tasks may not have been
possible, even if discussion of the strategy and tac-
tics of social practices may have been welcomed.
In summary, the most productive time for the acqui-
sition and honing of new embodied skills was the
period between 10 and 40 years of age. The acqui-
sition of most skills through either vertical or hori-
zontal transmission co-existed with, and relied upon,
a greater development of dividual relations in this
age-span, especially for horizontal transmission in-
volving peers.
The settlement context of skills acquisition was a
key element in embodied skill-building. At the house-
hold and community level, there would be an equal
diversity of skills combinations, with some dispersed
homesteads operating with an unavoidably narrow
range of skills. This restriction on lifeways skills was
as vital a reason for dispersed homestead participa-
tion in widespread exchange networks as the impor-
tance of finding an appropriate mate (Chapman
1989). By contrast, the communities living in agglo-
merated villages would have had at their collective
disposal a much wider range of skills combinations
perhaps the larger tell villages of the Early Neolithic
period may have boasted the full range of individ-
ualised persons.
However, it would have been extremely improbable
that each household in a nucleated village would
have had access to an identical range of skills. In a
community of 20–30 houses, every household may
start off attempting all of the new skills mentioned,
but there will soon come a realisation that not every-
one has the same talents and skills. This differenti-
ation had a temporal component. Training a child
in the special skills of the household was likely to
lead to higher levels of inter-household skills diffe-
rentiation after several generations. Thus inter-hou-
sehold contrast in skills was one means of genera-
ting enchained relations to ensure access to rare but
important skills. The emergence of relations based
on accumulation rather than enchainment would
have been one route toward which inter-household
specialisation led. This is not to claim that special-
ists were inevitable, but merely that the emergence
of different skills in different persons each related to
their own social value. Only the sustained absence
of any special skills in a household would transform
a context of potential skills differentiation into low-
level social ranking.
We should also recall that the Early Neolithic period
in the Balkans and Central Europe covers a long pe-
riod of time – perhaps as much as 800 years, or 25+
generations, in any single region – and a wide area.
We do not envisage the development of the full
range of all of the identified types of person over
the totality of the time-space distribution of the
Early Neolithic. Rather, it is highly probable that par-
ticular skills and roles co-emerged with specific so-
cial practices in certain places and not in others, or
perhaps not for a century or two or more in other
places. The recent emphasis on small, flat sites at the
start of the Neolithic in Greece and the South Bal-
kans (Kotsakis 2005; Bailey, Whittle 2005) has over-
looked the narrow range of embodied skills available
at these sites in comparison with larger, nucleated
tell villages; this narrow range of skills may have se-
lected against the smaller sites which certainly exist-
ed in these regions. Moreover, there will have been
a particular focus of innovation in the role-linked
creation of personhood in nucleated settlements,
with later diffusion across networks of dispersed
homesteads. As communities developed and embo-
died skill levels reached higher levels, it is plausible
that a wider range of types of individuals developed,
with new categories of individualised person co-emer-
ging with new forms of objects and structures.
Thus, the two weaknesses in Hernando’s model – da-
ting the stages of the model and explaining the shift
from dividual to individualising personhood – can
be addressed by proposing that settlement nuclea-
tion – whether in the Upper Palaeolithic (e.g., East
Gravettian: Soffer 2003), the Mesolithic (the Iron
Gates Gorge: Radovanovi 1996) or the tell villages
of the Neolithic of Greece or the South Balkans
(Chapman 2008a) – led to a wider diversity of per-
sons with different skills and a greater likelihood of
new skills combinations leading to more individuali-
sed identities. The second factor involved the wider
range of embodied skills requisite for the major tech-
nological changes at the start of the Neolithic and
during the long-drawn-out secondary products sce-
nario. These transformations brought a far larger
range of completely new skills into existence, provi-
ding a range of skills combinations much wider than
those of forager groups.
While the development of new skills was an indivi-
dual matter, generally relying on the creation of an
Can we reconcile individualisation with relational personhood| A case study from the Early Neolithic
embodied skill, the acquisition of these skills relied
on a vertical (family) or horizontal (peer-based) trans-
mission of skills which enhanced dividual relations
at every stage of skill acquisition. A high proportion
of the skills that appeared for the first time in the
Neolithic were composite skills, single parts of com-
plex chaînes opératoires, such as farming or pot-
ting, in which it was impossible to complete the
making of an object without careful integration of
one’s own labour with that of others – another sense
in which increases in individual skills went hand-
in-hand with dividual relations. There would clearly
have been social occasions where it was more im-
portant to emphasise one’s own individual skills
(e.g., exchange of prestige goods), while, at other
times, the relationship between every person contri-
buting to collective labour would have been highli-
ghted (e.g., a lineage ceremony).
One of the major debates in European prehistory –
the balance between ‘indigenous’ and ‘exogenous’
contributions to the emergence of farming – may be
reformulated in a skill-focused approach. The chaî-
nes opératoires of farming and animal-keeping were
so complex, involving the successful integration of
many persons, that such organisational successes
were by no means guaranteed in every community.
One reason for variations in the pace of the spread
of farming may well have been the greater or lesser
ability of groups to learn all of the requisite new
skills and then integrate all of the key persons in
such complex tasks.
Summary and conclusions
It is far too simplistic to state that farming involved
‘much more work’ than foraging (e.g., discussion in
Cohen 1977.33–40). The transition to farming was
a process in which the entirety of a community’s
social relations was transformed into a network of
inter-locking tasks – in many ways much more com-
plex a network than in foraging societies. The scale
of materialisation of these new social roles and re-
lations was a major factor in the explosion of mate-
rial culture found in the earliest farming cultures in
general and in South East Europe in particular. There
is also an emphasis on the categorisation of persons
in terms of their skills at certain social roles, as a way
of reinforcing a system of values for different social
practices through their linkages to material culture.
The core idea of this paper, which seeks to link per-
sons to things, is basically simple: because of the ma-
jor increase in the number of skills in the Neolithic,
there is a concomitant rise in the diversity of perso-
nal identities. While some chaînes opératoires are
relatively self-contained, others require consider-
able interdependency, and therefore co-ordination,
between different persons. The picture that we wish
to paint of Neolithic social life is based on a rich and
varied palette, with much personal and household
differentiation. The period of the emergence of far-
ming provides some background examples of the
processes of change involved. During these genera-
tions, new types of skills were created, in particular
farming and herding skills, but also potting, polished
stone tool-making and perhaps brewing skills. A
term such as ‘potter’ does not necessarily imply a
full-time occupation or specialisation, nor even the
only, or essentialist, identity of a particular person,
but emphasises the kind of activities through which
persons were recognised through the possession of
distinctive embodied skills. These new types of skills
co-emerged with new foodstuffs and objects, such as
flour, bread, lamb chops, barley beer, pottery and
axes – the one could not have occurred without the
other. Notions of personhood would have been in-
fluenced by the wide range of new relations, not
least gendered relations, based on these identities,
as well as by their interplay with those with traditio-
nal skills – hunting skills, shellfish-collecting skills,
flint-knapping skills and leather-working skills. The
communal values of the new products went hand in
hand with the status of their creators. It is probable
that, while those dwelling in dispersed homesteads
would have included some of these new classes of
skills, meeting persons with other skills seasonally,
tell villagers would have included the full range of
types of skills, with everyday contacts for most peo-
ple. The discovery of secondary products would have
ushered in new episodes of skill-creation, with the
production of milk, cheese and yoghurt; while plou-
ghing involved the harnessing of animal traction, as
well as the diversification of traditional skills such
as weaving, now making woollen textiles, and car-
pentry, now shaping wooden wheels, planks and
complex joints for carts. The values assigned to the
new things transformed the traditional system of
communal values, itself confirming new statuses for
new types of skills. In Gordon Childe’s (1956) telling
(if gender-biased) phrase, ’man/woman was making
himself/herself’. The period of the emergence of far-
ming was a time of particular innovation in this ma-
king process.
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her illustration, reproduced here as Figure 1.
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... However, with Neo-materialism, and the concept of objectagency, the importance of interpreting the reflection of social hierarchy and development within burial habits was challenged and calls for more nuanced approaches were made (Whitmore 2013). The past 20 years have marked a shift towards the concept of personhood and how it reflects societal structures where the concept of individuality is believed to be a part of modern essentialism and identities in the past were solely relational (Chapman and Gaydarska 2011;Fowler 2004;Hodder 1982); people were no longer considered to be individuals but made up of relational and dividual identities (Harrell 2009). ...
... decades have seen a transformation in the archaeology of burial habits, acknowledging the need for further critical reflection reaching beyond the context of objects and into ontological concerns.Hodder (2012) argues that personhood cannot be divorced from the entanglements of networks of mediated objects; the contrast of individual and dividual identities in antiquity has been eagerly debated, starting withHodder's (2006) earlier suggestion of linear evolutionary trend in the degree of individualism replacing dividualism with increased material entanglement. Supporting his statement,Chapman and Gaydarska (2011) further claim individualism to have 'risen' with increased diversity in Neolithic populations where specialised skills lead to more individual identities.Fowler (2016Fowler ( , 2004 argues that any ideas of linear evolution from dividuality to individualism are amiss and maintains that personhood exists in facets within any cultural context.Lucas (2012), on the other hand, rejects the idea of this relationship and argues that treating personhood as a purely abstract concept does not carry the same ontological weight as material objects.Ritualised transformations of the person through death and mortuary practices are imperative to the interpretation of personhood, as they often give an abundance of information about ritual and social performances for acting out beliefs about the afterlife and the safeguarding of the deceased from this world(Fowler 2016(Fowler , 2004.By passing from one state of personhood to the other, dramatic changes occur to the personhood of the deceased where his or her relationship with the living is changed, often via a tripartite rites-of-passage; the ritual process of removal of one identity and the emergence of the other where, through mortuary rituals, the deceased is safeguarded from the realm of the living to whatever lies beyond. This process shifts their personhood from stages of living to the liminal state of the burial where they are enabled to successfully claim the status of an ancestor(Fowler 2004;Whitley 2012). ...
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This dissertation seeks to explore the concept of personhood in Helladic burial habits through assemblage theory, which is a relatively novel theory that highlights the complex relationships existing between humans and their material culture. Previous studies of Helladic mortuary rites have gradually moved from searching for individual identities towards focusing on relationality of personhood, a shift which has resulted in deconstruction of identity where the concept of the individual is at risk of being lost. Using case studies of Grave Circles A and B in Mycenae, the warrior grave of Kolonna and the Griffin Warrior grave of Pylos, arguments will be made that the Mycenaean warrior ideology was created through the process of remembering and forgetting where it arises from the fluid dialect between individuality and dividualism. With this method, I hope to introduce assemblage-thinking into the methodology of Helladic mortuary archaeology where a balanced account of the agency of humans and materials is offered. 3
... Two other ways of producing personhood were through the development of productive skills and the representation of the human form. Many household members would have possessed skills sufficient to make tools from local flint or sandstone, spin yarn or make ad hoc bone tools (Chapman & Gaydarska 2011). However, the skill of carving a red deer canine into a fine ring/pendant would have marked out the craftsperson as someone special, whose identity may have become as extended in time as the highly curated ring/pendant itself -on the basis of experimental work estimated to be two or three generations. ...
... Concentration of skilled labour and management An important aspect of personhood is the range of personal skills and abilities that individuals develop over their life-course (see above, Section 5.2.1: Chapman & Gaydarska 2011). Very different persons can be defined for their closeness to one of the extremes -a person with high skills in one area whom we may call a 'specialist' or a person with a broad range of low-level skills in a range of different areas (roofing, flint-knapping, grinding), such that we may term them a 'generalist'. ...
... Robb & Harris correctly note that Bisserka Gaydarska and I (Chapman & Gaydarska, 2011) have approached social relations more through personhood than gender. ...
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This article is based on an EAA session in Kiel in 2021, in which thirteen contributors provide their response to Robb and Harris's (2018) overview of studies of gender in the European Neolithic and Bronze Age, with a reply by Robb and Harris. The central premise of their 2018 article was the opposition of ‘contextual Neolithic gender’ to ‘cross-contextual Bronze Age gender’, which created uneasiness among the four co-organizers of the Kiel meeting. Reading Robb and Harris's original article leaves the impression that there is an essentialist ‘Neolithic’ and ‘Bronze Age’ gender, the former being under-theorized, unclear, and unstable, the latter binary, unchangeable, and ideological. While Robb and Harris have clearly advanced the discussion on gender, the perspectives and case studies presented here, while critical of their views, take the debate further, painting a more complex and diverse picture that strives to avoid essentialism.
... During its early phase, the production of personal ornaments improved; new types and a greater variability of forms and raw materials are found compared to the previous period (Bar-Yosef Mayer, 2013;Martínez-Sevilla et al., 2021;Rigaud, d'Errico, & Vanhaeren, 2015). The increase and spread of these objects were certainly due to innovations in the social organization of Neolithic communities determined by the development of farming, animal husbandry, and settled villages (Cauvin, 1994;Chapman & Gaydarska, 2011;Robb, 2007;Whittle, 1996), as well as being consequences of the changes in craft production, exchange networks, and raw material procurement, which strongly influenced the material culture and subsistence of Neolithic groups (Baysal, 2019;Micheli, 2012a;Wright & Garrard, 2003). ...
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The Early Neolithic is an interesting period for observing the changes that took place in material culture and also in the ideology that influenced the production of personal ornaments. Objects of adornment are useful for understanding how past peoples differentiated themselves on the basis of gender, age, or group affiliation. The Early Neolithic in Italy developed throughout the entire sixth millennium cal. BC, during which the first farming communities settled in the Italian peninsula and islands, with diverse Neolithic groups related to wider-ranging cultural spheres. Early Neolithic ornaments were mainly ring bracelets, manufactured beads and perforated shells or teeth. Through their choice and the raw materials used for their production, individuals and groups emphasized their diverse identities based on shared traditions. Focusing on some of the more significant sites, this article considers similarities and differences in forms and raw materials employed for ornaments by different Early Neolithic groups and how these could have been useful attributes to emphasise identities and in particular the membership of particular social or cultural groups.
... ere is evidence of long distance transport of lithic raw materials (Přichystal 1985;Šída 2014;Burgert 2016;Burgert et al. 2016 and others) as well as final artefacts (Zápotocká 1984), even though it can be interpreted as a result of the down-the-linetrade (Renfrew -Bahn 2000, 368) with many participants in the chain, which could erase information about the origin of artefacts . We can suppose that in case of pottery, unlike with stone industry, where raw material sources played a significant role, it was needed to transfer knowhow itself, respectively the people who hold the know-how (Chapman -Gaydarska 2011;Tichý 2014). Surprisingly, there is more evidence of imports in pottery from the later periods of Neolithic, when the initial uniformity of a linear complex should be fragmented in regional groups (Pavlů -Zápotocká 2013, 109-110). ...
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Download ********* Catalogue Full PDF and ***Plans Full PDF download here: ********* This book presents a complex analysis of the Hrdlovka Neolithic settlement in Northwest Bohemia (Czech Republic). As the site was occupied without interruption from the Linear Pottery (Linearbandkeramik, LBK) to the Stroked Pottery (Stichbandkeramik, SBK) phase, development of many phenomena could be observed in the long-term perspective, especially the Neolithic longhouse architecture. With many well-preserved LBK and post-LBK longhouse ground plans and recorded constructional details, the Hrdlovka site can be regarded as one of the best examples of Neolithic architecture in Central Europe. The volume comprises analyses of all essential categories of archaeological finds – pottery, lithic and stone artefacts, and animal bones. The chronology of the settlement area lays the cornerstone for further investigation of the dwellers’ subsistence strategies and household activities. Text is accompanied by comprehensive catalogue of excavated artefacts, sunken features and longhouses.
... , miners, metallurgists, cheese-makers, etc.) emerging in this period (Chapman and Gaydarska 2011). Some forms are found in all three areas (Figure 3), but star-shaped and trefoil beads are exclusive to Greece ( Only few Spondylus items, mainly from Greece, are not personal ornaments. ...
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The Spondylus gaederopus/Glycymeris exchange network has long been known as the earliest continent-wide network in prehistoric Europe. This chapter establishes a space-time framework for the four distinctive phases of this network, which changes from low-intensity, Greek-Balkan to continent-wide, linking Greece to the Paris Basin, before a reduction to a Balkan-Carpathian network of high intensity, with many regional differences in forms and production. The two principal sources of the marine shells-the Aegean and the Adriatic-were exploited in different ways, with several production sites known near the former but none as yet near the latter. Currently, the only site more than 100km from the Aegean with a complete production sequence is Orlovo (SE Bulgaria). Shells were principally used as personal ornaments, taking advantage of their four main characteristics-their distinctive colour and brightness, their exoticity, and their capacity to carry biographical information about their life histories.
The prehistory of the Aegean, Balkans, and Carpathian Basin has changed dramatically in the last two decades. This review covers five aspects of these changes: ( a) the development of theoretical approaches, in which diversification from cultural archaeology has seen the spread of processual, postprocessual and later approaches; ( b) the acquisition of data, with the key major development being the proliferation of large-scale infrastructure projects; ( c) the synthesis of data, the most significant challenge being to make sense of the massive increase in paleo-environmental research, materials science, regional surveys, and site monographs; ( d ) thematic questions, whose very diversity underscores the discipline's growth in these regions; and ( e) emergent trends, such as the creation of new forms of synthesis at the local, regional, and interregional scales, the theorizing and differentiation of new ways of relating people, places, plants, and animals and objects, and continuing diversification in the application of scientific techniques. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 49 is October 21, 2020. Please see for revised estimates.
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This famous quote from G. de Lampedusa‘s novel ‘The Leopard’ conveys very well the conundrum of the longevity of the vast Cucuteni-Trypillia prehistoric network. On the one hand, the deep-time continuity in the habitus and the Big Other is expressed in many aspects of Trypillia technology – house-building, house-burning, the spatial arrangement of houses, house sizes, low-level agricultural technology, the continuity in faunal exploitation, and more pronounced local change in the shape and decoration of pottery and figurines. On the other hand, there was massive settlement agglomeration, with attendant scalar social transformations that seem to have no effect on houses, practices and material culture. This paper will explore this central disjunction in Trypillia archaeology by looking at two levels where social transformation may occur – revisiting the consumption of figurines at the network level, and ‘zooming in’ to a site level using visual graph analysis (VGA) of architecture and spatial order at Nebelivka (Novoarkhanhelsk Raion, Ukraine).
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Personal ornaments made of shells of marine mollusks are well known from prehistoric sites. Unluckily, the manufacturing processes needed to produce beads, pendants and bracelets eliminate the natural characteristics of the shells that allow the taxa identification. The exact determination of this information is instead very useful for identifying the original habitats of mollusks, the location of shell collection sites and the possible routes of trade of personal ornaments. The taxa determination can be obtained by means of 2D destructive analysis that cannot however be applied in case of rare or highly valuable archaeological materials. The development of computerized X-ray microtomography (microCT) allows researchers to obtain 3D microstructural information about hard materials of animal origins without destroying objects or taking samples. MicroCT was experimentally applied at the Multidisciplinary Laboratory of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics of Trieste (ICTP) to some personal ornaments from the Italian Neolithic period. This was done to verify the possibility of determining the taxa of shells through visualization of their microstructure. The results of the microCT analysis of shell ornaments are discussed with particular attention to the Spondylus case study ‒ L’utilizzo nel corso della preistoria degli ornamenti personali in conchiglia di molluschi marini e ben noto. I processi di lavorazione eliminano tuttavia le caratteristiche naturali delle conchiglie che consentono l’identificazione tassonomica dei molluschi. Tale determinazione e molto utile per identificare gli habitat dei molluschi e i luoghi di origine delle conchiglie, ma può fornire indizi anche sulle possibili direttrici di circolazione dei materiali archeologici. La determinazione tassonomica e in genere ottenuta tramite analisi distruttive 2D che non possono essere applicate nel caso di materiali archeologici rari o di grande pregio. Lo sviluppo della microtomografia computerizzata a raggi X (microCT) consente di ottenere informazioni microstrutturali 3D senza la necessita di distruggere gli oggetti o di prelevarne dei campioni. Tale analisi avanzata e stata applicata in via sperimentale presso il Laboratorio Multidisciplinare del Centro Internazionale di Fisica Teorica “Abdus Salam” di Trieste (ICTP) ad alcuni ornamenti elaborati del Neolitico italiano per verificare la possibilità di determinazione tassonomica delle conchiglie a partire dalla conoscenza della loro struttura interna. I risultati microCT vengono esaminati prestando particolare attenzione al caso particolare degli ornamenti in conchiglia di Spondylus.
The explanations of burial customs provided by previous anthropologists are examined at length together with the assumptions and data orientations that lay behind them. Both the assumptions and explanations are shown to be inadequate from the point of view of systems theory and from a detailed examination of the empirical record. A cross-cultural survey drawn from the Human Relations Area Files shows that associations do exist between measures of mortuary ritual variety and structural complexity. It was found that both the number and specific forms of the dimensions of the social persona commonly recognized in mortuary ritual vary significantly with the organizational complexity of the society as measured by different forms of subsistence practice. Moreover, the forms that differentiations in mortuary ritual take vary significantly with the dimensions of the social persona symbolized. Hence, much of contemporary archaeological conjecture and interpretation regarding processes of cultural change, cultural differentiation, and the presence of specific burial customs is inadequate as well as the ideational propositions and assumptions underlying these notions. Inferences about the presumed “relationships” compared directly from trait lists obtaining among archaeological manifestations are useless without knowledge of the organizational properties of the pertinent cultural systems.
Space and gender have been two of the ‘buzz words’ in archaeology over the last few years; and quite rightly so, since they identify two of the most crucial aspects of human experience. As we move around buildings today, we are all well aware of norms and restrictions — public spaces and doors marked ‘private’, lounges and bedrooms, stairways and corridors. We negotiate and respect these according to customs and habits learned mainly in childhood. What is true of our own society is true of every other society, past and present, and one of the challenges — not to say obligations — facing archaeologists is to gain some understanding of these spatial mores, even when presented with little more than a ground plan. In Gilchrist's case-study of medieval English nunneries, the evidence is rather more substantial. Not only has some of the fabric survived — both of churches and their associated buildings — but there is a rich body of textual information about the nunneries, the nuns who inhabited them, and the Christian symbolism and belief which underlay the whole institution. What better place to study gender and its material expression than in such a uniquely female institution as the medieval nunnery? Fezv would deny that archaeology can play a powerful role in helping us to understand these religious communities — enabling us to see beyond the confines of written records. The application of particular theoretical approaches, however, is somewhat more contentious. Just how well do they fit such a body of evidence? And on a subject where we already have a great deal of textual evidence, can study of the material remains — in layout of buildings, evidence of their use, and iconography — truly reveal new levels of meaning? In sum, how successful is this new analysis? These are among the key issues which are discussed in the following pages. As usual, we begin this Review Feature with an introduction by the author herself, Roberta Gilchrist. Then follow four contrasting reactions, from archaeologists and historians, rounded off by Gilchrist's reply. Whatever our assessment, the interplay of gender and space has profound and far-reaching significance, and raises issues that no serious historical archaeologist — or indeed prehistorian — can afford to ignore.
This chapter explores the relationship between gender and material culture by taking one artefact class, antler and bone combs, and investigating three issues: their supposed function as a weaving tool; the assumption that they are therefore a woman’s tool; and the question of who might have made these artefacts. Long Handled combs of antler and bone have been found on a number of domestic sites in the British Isles. They are mainly dated to the Iron Age although a few have been found in Late Bronze Age contexts on the one hand, and with Roman finds on the other. They normally have teeth at one end and are frequently decorated (see Figures 9.1–9.3). They can vary in length from 70–220 mm with a rough average of 150 mm. Scottish combs are often made of whalebone and differ both in design and possible use. This chapter will concentrate on the combs found in Southern Britain which are mainly made from the antlers of red deer, with some bone examples — usually the shaft bones of ox or horse — and only very rare examples made from whalebone.